Tag Archives: challenge

Deep breath and…. Artist’s Way – Week Two

7 Nov

         Yes, I just realized I’ve taken about a month and a half hiatus from my poor little blog.  And while my Artist’s Way update may not be the most fascinating thing to read… it’s the only way I really have of keeping myself accountable to the project that I’ve long since slacked on.
         I don’t know what it is about this book, and why it’s so difficult for me to get through.  Week 2 could more accurately be called Week 2 over the course of seven actual weeks… but here I am. Actually ready to move on to week three despite some very confusing and irritating hesitation and near anxiety over the idea.

         Now I most definitely did not do my morning pages every morning.  I could blame it on the busy month of October, which it was… and I could blame it on the unpredictability of my work schedule, which it is… but really, if I don’t write immediately upon waking up, before leaving my bedroom… then there’s a very slim chance that I will write them at all (Although the thought of them will loom over me all day).  So while my writing has been spotty, and even though I hate it half of the time when I am in the middle of it, I really truly can breathe better when I am writing them on a regular basis, so I’m putting more effort into making this a habit.  I’ve actually noticed that the times when I stop writing so often… are generally the times when I’m trying to avoid acknowledging a feeling.. or seeing the truth behind a thought that I’m trying to claim is something else.  Morning pages are like a conversation with myself I guess.  It’s hard to write a sentence that isn’t entirely accurate without being immediately aware of it.

         The exercises this week though, are always some of my favorite and I finish them quickly when I actually sit down to do them.  The time exercise always kills me, but always prompts me to make some immediate changes.  In fact, maybe I should do that one on a monthly basis, just to check-in.  I had to sketch out a break-down of the 5 activities I spend the most time on.  I spend an unnecessary amount of time sleeping… and while I’ve gotten better at not spending hours upon hours tooling around on the internet, I’ve replaced that with watching old episodes of either the Office, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Glee (no judgment please).  So, several weeks ago, I started limiting my time spent on both those activities, but I’ve since slipped a bit…

I listed ten tiny changes I’d like to make and I did make one of them.

I drew a little life pie, as she calls it, and rated my satisfaction in various areas of my life.  While I’m feeling fabulously about the Romance & Adventure, Friends, Work and Spirituality areas of my life… the unsurprising appearance of Exercise on the low satisfaction scale and the more suprising Play area are suffering.

One thing I thought was interesting… kind of sad… and perhaps explains the unsatisfactory rating of the existence of “Play” in my life was the last exercise that I did.  List 20 things I enjoy doing.  Easy, breezy, right?  Except it took me a while… I didn’t just bang out twenty things like i expected to.. I got stuck a few times and had to sit and think… and think… and think… That made me feel a little underexpended in the fun department.  When did this happen?!  I don’t know if it’s because things start to get so busy that even the fun things don’t always register as play? So I picked one, “reading for fun”, and started doing much more of that.  Not monumental, but a first step.

20 Things

So that’s that. Week two finished. It was called recovering your identity… but I think it was more of a navigational status report. A look at where you are, what you do with your time and what you’d prefer to be doing with it. Interesting results, to say the least.

AND…. This will be my first time every starting Week Three! I’m kind of excited. And for the record, I did do a couple versions of artist dates over the past seven weeks.  Here’s a couple photos of them.

Carpinteria Beach
A morning at the Carpinteria Beach


Painting Workshop
Painting workshop in Oakland


Park
Reading under the trees in Alameda Park

Confessions of an Over-Caffeinated Brain

28 Sep

SkyI’ve been wanting to write, and the problem has been that there are so many things I’ve been wanting to write about that I fear they will exit the flood gates in a woefully unorganized fashion. I’ve spent most of the morning writing through various thoughts to be placed elsewhere, and caffeinating myself from an espresso machine that dispenses perfectly formed cups of coffee in the push of a button. I can never own one of these. I have enough energy to race around the building after two cups.

That aside, I have an hour before I have to leave for work, and in that hour I really want to write about the unknown.  Fear of the unknown, conversation with the unknown, and contentedness with the unknown.  And I’m giving myself permission to write about these things, despite how little I have actually engaged in dialogue with them, because how else do you familiarize yourself with something besides entering into conversation about it.  For me, for now, that means writing.

I think so many people have heard of that quote by Rilke,

I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…

I bought that quote on a magnet earlier this year when I was going through an incredibly difficult and foreign experience.  I bought it because I knew that I had no answers or explanations for what had just happened in my life, and that it was so new that it would take me a while to wade through the unknown, and I wanted to remember to sit with those things.

Now I’ve not always remembered to sit with those things.  I’ve gotten frustrated to the point of tears over the lack of answers I’ve been able to provide for myself.  I’ve been so disgusted with my inability to neatly categorize my experiences that I’ve tried to detach from them, only to have them erupt in very misplaced areas.  Of course I’ve had those times where I’ve slowed down, let feelings ebb and flow, let the unknown simply be the unknown… but those times have taken work.  Constant reminders and monitoring.  It’s been part of my challenge to myself over the past week… to take those necessary first steps but at the same time to ease off on myself.  To stop demanding that so much of my time and efforts and evolution be constantly producing efficient results.  To stop insisting that I always be able to chart my progress, and instead, to let my life shape itself through those first courageous steps.

I’ve been ever so slowly discovering that the reason I’ve had such a hard time taking those first steps into the unknown is because so far, I’ve refused to acknowledge that somewhere along the way I became a bit terrified of the unknown.  A thing I’ve always appreciated about myself is my comfort with change.  The excitement I find in changing living arrangements, going to new places, exploring new vocations, learning new things and resting in the comfort that things will work themselves out.  If something doesn’t go as I’d planned, an opportunity will always present itself.  This is how my life has always gone.  So it’s been really hard for me to recognize that this relationship that I had with the unknown had changed from happy-go-lucky acceptance, to tight-fisted refusal to move forward without some kind of predictable outcome.

But my attachment to that fact that I held dear about myself has not prepared me for this truth… that I have become intimidated by those unknowns.  That recently I’m tending more towards seeing the possible failures and heartbreaks and humiliations in them rather than anticipating a world of potentialities.  And holding on desperately to my former disposition of jumping into the thrill of the new is keeping me from offering up to myself those small bits of support and comfort that might give me the courage to walk more slowly towards those potentials.  And maybe that means taking small steps through the unmapped landscape that results from loss.  Making slow-paced venture, and allowing myself some excitement over growing possibilities for the future.  And most especially, acknowledging that maybe all those things I’ve been afraid of and worrying over and have kept me immobile are of my own making.  And that I really am strong enough and deep enough to pull out all the necessary love and forgiveness and curiosity that I need in order to keep taking steps forward.

Phew. Now there’s a lovely thought.

21 Days. A week later…

19 Sep

21 Days

So.  It is almost a week to the day since I got a text message from Miss Kimberly Gill saying, Would you be willing to commit to 21 days of moving outside of your comfort zone with me?

Now, those who know my friend Kim understand why this text did not cause me the least bit of surprise.   A handful of clarifying questions, a sunset and a sunrise later, a post showed up on her blog, followed by an email to friends and family.   Yes, she was presenting a challenge to herself and those willing to join, to spend 21 days to doing things that she wished to, but normally wouldn’t for fear of being uncomfortable.

This sounded like a fantastic idea to me!  I love to play these kinds of games, like little dares to myself.

So I added my affirmative comment to her post, read over the others, and set about with a pen and paper to figure out what my plan of attack would be.

I started listing things that I had really been wanting to do but hadn’t because they’ve felt too silly, scary or otherwise have made me squirm at the thought.  As my list grew, panic began to set in at the thought of tackling all of the things that I’d been putting off for weeks, months, some for a few years!   That panic proceeded to plague me for the entire week.  Lovely, hmm?

Enter David Whyte

He reads this poem on an audiobook I downloaded:

START CLOSE IN

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first thing
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

Start with the ground you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own way of starting the conversation.

Start with your own question,
give up on other people’s questions,
don’t let them smother something simple.

To find another’s voice
follow your own voice,
wait until that voice
becomes a private ear
listening to another.

Start right now
take a small step you can call your own
don’t follow someone else’s heroics,
be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first thing
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

~ David Whyte ~

Start close in.  Don’t take the second step.  Or the third.  Start with the first thing.  Close in.  The step you don’t want to take.

So I reconsider… and I remember an email I got this week from the Inner Mean Girl brigade.   It was about ditching expectations.   Lightening up on an unattainable quest for perfection and underpromising instead of overpromising.

Start close in.

I think about the 21 day challenge again.   I know that I have a couple of security blankets, ie. things that keep me cocooned inside of my comfort zone.   Mainly they are: sleeping far later than necessary and extreme internet usage.   Both of these things eat up time in my day like no other, and set me off in a cranky mood because of that time I feel like I’ve wasted.

So.   In an attempt to broaden my chances for exiting my comfort zone… I’m going to start with curbing those things first.   AND in an attempt to wig out my inner perfectionist, I’m not going to overpromise.  I’m not going to lay out my master plan with my list of 21 things and my do’s and don’ts for the next 21 days.   I’m going to start with those first things, and let the rest unfold.   That’s what this 21 days will be about for me.  Starting now.

phew!

The Artist’s Way – Week One

19 Sep

         I have tried to do the Artist’s Way dozens of time for about the past three and a half years.  I’ve tried to do it solo and I’ve recruited friends… I have yet to make it past the second week.  The morning pages are something I’ve managed to keep, however sporadically, and remain one of my little source of sanity.
         So here I am, once again, at the beginning of the twelve weeks.  Mary and Megan! I’m keeping an eye out for your posts!


Week One.
         I actually do not like this chapter one bit. The reading is interesting, but the exercises… the monster hall of fame and writing a letter in my defense are not in any way appealing to me.  Nor is drawing a villanizing picture of one of my past jerks.  I know that she says that the things you resist are supposed to be the ones that are really cathartic for you… but really, I just can’t think of people in my history who have been particularly discouraging to any budding creativity.  You know, besides myself. If I reach… I could say a couple art teachers.  Only because if you turn work in late,  and my work was always late, it gets completely discounted. Other than that, I’m at a loss.
         The Champions were a cinch, two of my lovely college professors and a former boss. And actually, they stand out to me more so because they were supportive and encouraging of me as a person, in creative endeavors as well as most other things.
And of course… who doesn’t love the imagining 5 different lives exercise?! Always one of my favorites. (btw I was a writer, a professional dancer, a model, a teacher and a full-time mom. I want to know what you were!)


         My artist’s date… I always feel like I have to pack a bunch of really amazing things into a couple of hours… but I tried to start “feeding the well” slowly this time.  So, I spent an hour in an art store. Art Essentials is conveniently located two doors down from one of my jobs. I didn’t buy anything… I just looked, and touched, and read descriptions of tools I didn’t recognize, and entertained a variety of potential projects in my head as I walked through the aisles.  Simple, yes. But I had a blast. I didn’t even realize an hour had passed until I was out.  I flipped through books, looked at the phases of painting sunsets, different drawing techniques, metal art pieces and suggested camera angles.  I picked out the kinds of portfolios I would want to have, should I ever have a need to fill a portfolio.  I looked at dye, clay, woodworking tools, walnut oil based paint, canvases, composition books, and rows and rows of gorgeous papers and textures.  Did I mention I had a blast? And of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos with my phone too (at the top)… literally a feast for the eyes, hands and imagination.


         As for my morning pages. I did miss one day. But I decided to go easy on myself because I’ve been pretty damn good with them otherwise.  I even got so caught up in complaining one morning… that I went straight through to the fourth page.  Is that something to brag about?


Okay girls, passing the torch! And I’m far more excited for Week Two’s exercises.

Built up thoughts that pour out at midnight

8 Sep

WHAT IF…

you said exactly what you’re feeling right now?
you let your no be no and didn’t back down when someone pushed back?
you let yourself say yes to something that delights you even if it appears foolish or impractical?
you stand by your intuition and decide it’s okay not to explain or apologize for your wordless wisdom?
you ask for what you need and don’t wait for someone to offer or understand?
you allow yourself time to let go of the struggle and do nothing at all?
you stop doing that thing you do just because someone expects it?
you take things at face value and decide there is no reason to walk on eggshells after all?
you assume that underneath everything is NOT something dark and dangerous or scary but something more like goodness and love?

what if you assumed that compassion for yourself is a powerful way forward? that being gentle with who you are right now is a kindness that spares the world a certain kind of suffering?

what if you could let yourself imagine being held in a divine embrace?

sitting in my room tonight, holding the what ifs, wondering if you are, too. sweet dreams, dear friends. i’m thinking of you.
-Jen Lemen

That felt like a direct challenge to me. So here is exactly what I’m feeling right now, however unperfected.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. A LOT. About so many things. And at so many points, I’ve also thought, I should write that out… Writing it out helps me to figure it out along the way, expands my own consideration of it.  But as soon as I evolve one notion, another flicker starts to attract me in a different direction.  For instance, I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships. What makes them strong and lasting, nourishing to each other… what causes them to deteriorate or transform into a sustained energy suck. And going down this thought path keeps leading me back to myself over and over again.  To consider the ways I relate to others and the ways I relate to myself.  The thoughts and habits that keeps me alive and strong and enchanted with the world, and the ones that cause me to feel like I’m withdrawing from it.
I listened to this talk yesterday, with a man named Mike Robbins. Right before he and his wife had their first child, he had a mentor that told him that he had two main jobs when it came to his new daughter. The first was all about teaching her how to get by in the world. Things like tying her shoes, blowing her nose, crossing the street safely, and all of that stuff. Then he says, “But the second job you have is the most important. And it’s harder. You gotta teach her how to love herself.” And Mike says, ok… how do I do that? And his teacher says, “Well you love yourself. And you let her see that.”
It’s got me thinking about how many things that is true about… how much more of an impact something has when you can witness someone living it.  How much more you can reach out when you have your own reserve to reach from.  My friend Megan just wrote a post about an exercise she did.  Imagining herself at her own funeral, standing in front of all the people most important to her in her life… what one, brief message would she want to give them all.  She chose, “Love one another.”  I think that’s beautiful. One of my favorite quotes of all time is a Storypeople quote that says, “Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me, but try waking up every morning & loving the world all over again.  That’s what takes a real hero.” I agree with that. But I’d add to it.  Try waking up every morning & loving yourself all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.  Love yourself ((be patient with yourself, don’t demand immediate perfection of yourself, encourage yourself, listen to yourself))… so you can love one another.
So, ever so slowly… I’m holding up pieces of myself up to the sun… inspecting them to see which beliefs and habits still hold any sparkle for me and which have dulled without my realizing it.  There’s times when it’s an overwhelming process. When I feel like I need to show some kind of tangible measurement of my progress in order to know that my days are being well-spent. But I’m finding that this kind of work doesn’t respond like that.. and trying to remind myself to be gentle.
I feel like I’ve had so many lightbulbs go on at such a rapid pace in the past several weeks that I almost haven’t had time to catalog them all… which is what I’ve been feeling like I have to do. I had been trying to put a finger on why and I came across a few lines in another blog that sparked some recognition in me… “Just as surely as my outer geography has changed, so too has what’s inside. I’m in need of new inner maps; the old ones don’t seem to be of much use here. They no longer match the terrain.” (Kate’s Ordinarium)  I feel a need to re-orient myself to my own life again, because I feel like I’ve made a lot of changes recently and haven’t quite caught up to myself yet.
I guess I’m writing these half formed thoughts now as another reminder to myself. That everything is always evolving. That the more comfortable I can become with the parts of me that are unfinished or not quite smoothed out and nicely packaged and presented, the wider and more steady my foundation becomes.  As one of my new favorite writers Jen Lee says, the more we are loved, the braver we can become.  And for me that includes loving all those parts of myself that are still being worked out.